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Australia appoints Jewish lawyer as first ‘Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism’

Jewish lawyer and pro-Israel advocate Jillian Segal has been named Australia’s first “Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism“.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday the appointment had been made as part of “ongoing efforts to preserve social cohesion” and said the government would soon name a Special Envoy on Islamophobia.

Ms Segal was born in South African before moving to Australia where she attended exclusive Sydney private school Kambala, is a former deputy chancellor of the University of New South Wales, served on the National Australia Bank board, and was president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).

She will serve a three-year term and report directly to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs who she will advise on the issue of anti-Semitism.

“As Special Envoy, Ms Segal AO will listen to and engage with Jewish Australians, the wider Australian community, religious discrimination experts and all levels of government on the most effective way to combat anti-Semitism,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.

“Ms Segal will attend the World Jewish Congress in Argentina next week in her role as Special Envoy, alongside other Special Envoys to combat anti-Semitism from around the world.”

Many Australians criticised Mr Albanese’s appointment of Ms Segal on social media, pointing out there was no such position to combat anti-White racism or Anglophobia.

“Will you also be setting one up to combat Christophobia, is discrimination against Christian’s not an issue for your government?” asked X user HayesMediaGroup.

“We only built this nation, why should we not be availed the same protections as those that have come here not assimilated.”

“Do White Australians get a representative to sit at the table for the ‘social cohesion’ discussions?” asked another.

“Or are we just expected to comply with whatever a bunch of foreigners decide is good for them in our own country?”

Jillian Segal

The Jewish Council of Australia (JCA), an anti-Zionist Jewish organisation, said it was concerned at Ms Segal’s appointment and the “treatment of anti-Semitism as distinct from other forms of racism”.

“To single out anti-Semitism, when other groups are also suffering from racism, including First Nations people, and Palestinian and Muslim communities, undermines wider efforts to fight all forms of racism and will only drive division,” the JCA said in a statement.

“We are also concerned about the proposed envoy’s track record, in previous roles, of lobbying for Israel, opposing voices that support Palestinian human rights, and painting all Jews as supportive of Israel’s actions.

“Pro-Israel organisations in Australia have relied on relentless anti-Palestinian racism to justify Israel’s violence against Palestinians. By appointing a pro-war voice to this position the government risks breeding division, increasing Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism, and ultimately making Jews less safe.”

ECAJ President Daniel Aghion KC said he was “delighted” at Ms Segal’s appointment.

“She will bring deep knowledge of the issues and immense energy to the role, and we are confident that she will carry out her duties with integrity and distinction. We wish her every success in undertaking this vital work for the betterment of Australian society,” he said.

Following Ms Segal’s appointment Australia’s Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told the National Press Club he was proud to be Jewish but said there had been a “shocking rise” in anti-Semitism and the creation of a Special Envoy was a “concrete action” made to address it.

When asked if criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic, Mr Dreyfus said it “absolutely can be, not always”.

“I criticise the government of Israel from time to time. I don’t think I’m anti-Semitic. Other people criticise the government of Israel and I don’t think they’re antisemitic,” he said.

“But when people are singling out Israel and applying a standard to Israel that they do not apply to other countries, then potentially there’s anti-Semitism going on.”

Mr Dreyfus is also preparing a hate speech bill that will criminalise serious vilification based on race, sexuality, gender, disability and religion, government sources revealed in May.

At the time of the 2021 Census there were 99,956 Jewish people in Australia, less than 0.4% of the population.

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